Former pro rider Steven De Jongh credited with assisting Alberto Contador regain race-winning form

Former Sky sports director Steven De Jongh helped Alberto Contador come back to his best. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Spaniard from Madrid’s outskirts won today’s Tirreno-Adriatico, his first overall title since the 2012 Vuelta a España.

“He was working with my team-mate Sergio Paulinho and Sergio said to me that it would be good to work with him,” Contador said in the winner’s press conference. “I’m happy with how it worked out. It’s not that we made a lot of changes, we just focused on the tiny details.”

Contador said that he and the Dutchman speak daily because that is what he needs to reach his best. He added, “The details are important to win”.

Sky forced De Jongh out last winter along with Bobby Julich when it re-enforced its zero-tolerance stance in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal. The 40-year-old raced through 2009 and admitted that he used EPO in that time.

Team Tinkoff-Saxo, however, made use of De Jongh’s skills. The Russian/Danish team hired him in January 2013 and assigned him to its Grand Tour hopeful.

Contador won all three grand tours – the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España – but suffered since returning from a doping ban. Last year, he won only one race, a stage in the 2.1-ranked Tour de San Luis and cut his season short by skipping the Vuelta.

The stage win in the Volta ao Algarve last month and the Tirreno-Adriatico title, plus two mountain stages, proves he is back to his best. Though Sky’s Chris Froome and Richie Porte pulled out of the race, Contador took on Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and early race leader, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

“We always talked about what to do last season but it’s difficult to change plans in the middle of the season,” Team Manager Bjarne Riis told journalists including Cycling Weekly.

“I’m not going into details about how he trained and what we do but maybe he is a little more structured. It’s not that he never trained before but he is a little more precise now and worked on the things I wanted him to work on. He’s done that and he could see the results pay off the whole winter in his testing.”

Contador races the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Critérium du Dauphiné before the Tour de France. There he will take on defending champion Froome with the help of Sky’s former sports director De Jongh.